2021 Finalist, Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting


The Tampa Bay Times discovered that the Pasco County, Florida sheriff’s office spent nearly a decade secretly collecting data and building an algorithm designed to predict which residents were likely to break the law. Using this algorithm, but often without probable cause or evidence of crimes, the department continuously monitored and harassed nearly 1,000 residents in the span of five years. The Tampa Bay Times’ interviews with former deputies discovered that the harassment tactics were designed to make these residents move out of the county or file a lawsuit. Some cases had far more dire consequences, including that of a teenager who died by suicide while under surveillance based on the sheriff’s algorithms. As a result of this reporting, state lawmakers have filed legislation to curb this style of policing in Florida, the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor has called for a federal investigation and four residents who were targeted are suing the sheriff’s office with the help of a national non-profit legal firm.

Read more about the story behind the investigation in this piece by The Journalist’s Resource.

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